Sunday, September 5, 2010

[RECIPE]Summer Mango Apple Pie

In June, I was back at home, and that usually entails a countertop toppling over with fruit because my mom buys so much all the time. She practically lives off fruit because she gets it really cheap at the Asian and Persian supermarkets (yea yea, Crown Valley Marketplace and Saigon City!!!) I came back from the university to a huge box of ripening champange mangoes and a whole bag of red apples. My great-aunt (the most amazing baker and resourceful cook in our family) had given me Pillsbury pie crusts a while back and these I froze. Figuring I should use up these things that needed to be done away with.

I sliced up the mangoes and apples, and mixed these with brown sugar and cinnamon. I rolled out the pie dough, parbaked it in the pie plate, then filled it with the fruit mixture. After which I popped in the oven a bit longer. Out came this delicious, quick, and satisfying pie that's just the right amount of natural sweetness with just a bit of savoriness from the crust.  It's quick and a nice change from the usual apple pie, which in stores is laden with too much syrupy filling.

Easy Mango-Apple Pie (serves 8-12)
1 champagne (or Kent/Keitt) mango cut into slices
2-3 apples cut into same sized slices as the mangoes
1 frozen pie crust (or you can make your own, but I lazy ;P )
1/4 or 1/2 cup (I think) of brown sugar
Cinnamon to taste (be liberal!!! It's tasty AND good for you!)

1. Parbake the thawed pie crust according to directions.
2. Meanwhile, mix the fruit slices, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a medium bowl.
3. Let the pie crust cool a bit, then spoon in the fruit filling.
4. Bake until the crust is just golden.

*Note: to prevent burning the crust (which I was on the verge of doing), put aluminum foil over the edges of the pie crust.

Judgement? Great! My dad loved it! And it makes me happy when my dad likes my baking, cuz I tend to experiment with "healthifying" things and then he doesn't like the blander taste or weird texture. I'm still trying though. More experimentation will lead to perfection.

Try this sometime. Maybe you have some addition or suggestion to it to make it even better. Let me know! But, in general, mangoes are just about a great addition to anything, and definitely perks up the usual apple pie.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Summer Cookup Collection

I did a lot of cooking last spring semester. A lot of it wasn't chronicled, but why should every dinner be? Now, that'd be a hassle. I have a couple of pictures of experiments I've tried this summer. I finally decided to stop procrastinating and post them up. I don't know if I have the recipe for all of them, but I can give a gist of what they are and what I did.

Banh Da Lon (Vietnamese Pandan and Mung Bean Layered Cake)

This is a steamed cake, made by alternating layers of coconut-pandan rice cake and mung bean paste. I didn't have green food coloring when I made this, so it doesn't look like the typical one you see in Vietnamese stores, but it came out all right. Steaming was a little hard, and I had a tiny pie pan, so I couldn't do many layers. It came out all right. Will definitely have to keep practicing.


Mushroom Ragu(?) over Cornmeal Mush

I actually can't remember what I did with this and where exactly I got the inspiration. I think I basically put cornmeal in boiling water, then added garlic parmesan dry mix from Costco. The mushrooms were sauteed in olive oil with onions and garlic, and maybe some wine. It came out kind of bland and tough to eat, actually. Won't make this again. Plus, I need to cut off the stems of shiitake mushrooms. Those were the tough part to eat. This was like eating some kind of savory cream of wheat again. Not that great, but pretty in the picture at least.


Strawberry Jam Cake

I can't remember where I got the recipe for this. It was a cake with a swirl of strawberry jam through it. It was tasty and pretty, but not sweet enough. I added icing (lemon, milk, confectioner's sugar, butter) on top to make it more dessert-like and it was perfect.


Homemade Tomato Sauce and Broccoli over Spaghetti

This was a simple, quick, and tasty throw-together. Just put cut-up tomatoes, sauteed with garlic and onions. Cooked with tomato paste and Italian seasonings and salt. Served with steamed/boiled broccoli, parmesan cheese, and spaghetti. Very easy but probably the tastiest of my Spring 2010 cooking attempts.

Next post up is my collection of summer attempts, hits and misses, including my first FANCY CAKE! Here's a preview :D See you soon!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Crazy food all over the place - tortas, pho tacos, and jap crepes

Sooo, I'm actually just going to blog about some interesting new food popping up all over SoCal. Recipes and food I've been making or have made and need to post about shall ensue.

Like any other foodie, I've been obsessed with the torta fad lately. Soft telera rolls generously fillled with succulent meats, smears of avocado and beans, creamy queso fresco, with refreshing lettuce and tomatoes. I've tried a couple of places around North and Southern California, but I definitely have to branch out. I've had it at Senor Pedro's Tacos in San Juan Capistrano and from the Mexican supermarket Cardenas in Norco. I have to say, the one at Cardenas was by far the best so far. Luscious meat, great bread, I dunno, it was just so good. I also had one from some place in Mission District in SF (location is near the BART and McDonalds). That one was all right. Another from NorCal was from the taco truck on 1st and International in Oakland. Veryyyyy good - or maybe cuz it was 1 am in the morning, but I had eaten dinner already and I had to eat the whole thing.

Anyways, AM PM is trying to get on the bandwagon and is currently promoting their own tortas, and now a "Tower of Torta." Intrigued, I went to their facebook where they apparently have a bunch of crazy secret menu items. This is what it looks like:
Sounds like a heart attack of a secret menu, huh? Donut burger? Triple burgers, triple tortas. Pizza wrapped around a hotdog. Yeah...

Nevertheless, I am actually considering trying their torta. Just one, though. NOT that insane tower of torta. Wayyy too much for me. What do you say? Should I do it?

Other interesting food things that I've come across:

(pic from yelp)

Japanese Crepes at Harajuku Crepes in Beverley Hills. I am soooo getting a green tea crepe with azuki beans and strawberry ice cream. Going this Thursday and I'm sooo excited!!! They're so cheap too! $3.50 for crepe, $1 for fruit or azuki, $0.50 for ice cream, $0.50 for whipped cream or nutella!! So cheap but I've read soooo delicious!!!!

Vietnamese Taco: move over Korean taco trucks, the Viet taco is coming to town! Ha, now chefs and aspiring cooks are putting whatever protein they can get their hands on into corn tortillas. My mom just made pho. Maybe I'll just take the rare sliced beef, fresh onions, cilantro and put it in the flour tortillas she just bought. Wow. I've created a pho burrito. I'm gonna be famous. *waves flag*

That's what I've been up to lately. Sucked into my computer. Hope this bit was entertaining for you. Next post will be a collection of some stuff I made up at Berkeley, along with some other recipes.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Yogurt Blueberry Scones

The best days are those when you get to sleep in, and then you wake up and bake yourself a nice breakfast.

Today, I slept in until 11, finally getting more than the 5-6 hours I've been getting all week. I got up and decided to use those nice blueberries in the refrigerator! I found this recipe for blueberry yogurt scones somewhere on the internet, but adjusted to my liking and resources. What I changed was using flavored yogurt instead of plain, adding a hint of spices, halving the sugar, and reducing the amount of milk. Adding the recipe's amount of milk proved too much. The scone recipe could actually go without the milk that is added, or just 1-2 Tbs of the milk. The recipe below will have my recommendations.

Yogurt Blueberry Scones
2 cups of flour (1cup whole wheat pastry, 1 cup all purpose)
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 Tbs light brown sugar (instead of 2 Tbs)
Spices to taste (usually 1/2 tsp of spices such as cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, etc.)
4 Tbs (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cubed
6 oz of some kind of berry flavored yogurt (instead of plain)
1-2 Tbs of milk (may omit if dough looks wet enough)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup fresh blueberries (may add lemon zest for extra flavor)

1) Combine flour, salt, baking powder, sugar, and spices.
2) Cut in butter and mix into flour until crumbly.
3) Add in yogurt and vanilla, and milk if necessary. Fold in blueberries (and zest).
4) Knead two or three times.
5) Preheat oven to 420 degrees Fahrenheit. Put parchment paper in a 9" round cake pan. Lightly butter if you want.
6) Roll dough into a ball, then place in center of prepare pan. Pat out into an 8" round, then slice into 8 pieces.
7) Bake in center of oven 12-15 min or 15-20 min, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean and it's a light tan color. Let cool in pan 5 min, then remove to a wire rack to cool further.
Makes 8 scones

These came out very tasty. The mixed berry yogurt adds a wonderful aroma that wafts from the scones like heavenly perfume. So delicious and actually healthy! Not full of butter and cream like the traditional scones, yet still satisfying and taste-electrifying! Doesn't even need a lemon glaze (which I usually think overdoes it on any pastry). I bet crystallized ginger would have been a nice addition too, if I had it. Well, I hope you enjoy this wonderful treat sometime!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Sustainable Food Debate

I just read this article against the current trend in "sustainable" food.

What the NPR host says is that, if we look at developing countries (ones that Americans and Europeans see as less high tech in their agriculture) such as Africa, they subsist off of this "slow food" movement. The irony is that they are a developing country because of and leading to this slow food way of getting and distributing their vittles.

I do agree with Paarlberg that Westerners must clear their minds of this idealized view of the "slow food" and "sustainable" movement. We should not give up on it, but rather not let ourselves get sucked into organic messages that overplay the moral values of their goods. Oftentimes, organic or local really is not better for you or the environment. I could sell you a lemon from my tree at home for three times as much just because it's local, but that may not defeat the fact that it's grown in a suburb or may have grown by use of synthesized fertilizers. My opinion is that the organic and slow labels are often overplayed by many companies and groups to try and woo consumers into forking over more money for their goods.

Addressing the world hunger case, I do agree that we must "de-romanticize our view of preindustrial food and farming. And that means learning to appreciate the modern, science-intensive, and highly capitalized agricultural system we’ve developed in the West" . The industrialized agricultural system is created to most efficiently feed a massive population of humans. Let us consider what the goal and what the methods are. The goal of "solving world hunger" cannot truthfully be met by a "slow" and "local" method because this does not output enough to feed a large number of people. World hunger means a lot of mouths to feed. Slow and local only feeds a small rich group right now in the West. I will admit that industrial agriculture of the modern day is not glamorous or humane at all. I personally detest the way they coop up the animals and the way they kill them; yet, if people want to solve the proposed "world hunger problem," I can't see a more efficient way to do so than this way. 

It's just unfortunate that solving world hunger and maintaining humane practices for all living creatures can't go hand in hand...

What do you all think about this?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Scallop Vegetable Risotto and Double Banana Muffins

Hello again.


What? Don't remember me? Oh yeah. We haven't spoken in a veerryyyyy long time. Well, between fun stuff, procrastinating, school, and other various distractions, Blog, you have been set at a lower priority. But, now I have returned to post!

"Really? A review, huh?"

Nope! I have my own recipe and it's delicious! Although, I must admit, I do have a long list of restaurants that I must review on Yelp, along with other foods I have made at home since my last post.

Today, I surprisingly had a lot of time. Also, surprisingly, I was not too tired in the evening despite staying up late to try and finish homework and getting up semi-early to go to research lab. After class was over, and after taking a fun stroll through Whole Foods, I was prepared to finally achieve one of my life goals!

Cooking risotto!!!

So I did it. And I was so psyched when I finished and even now. Haha. The finished product was really good, and SOOO much better than Pasta Pomodoro's special this month: Asparagus Risotto. That thing was bland and had no love put in it. Just kinda thick rice with asparagus. Nasty. Their El Cerrito branch will be receiving a bad review on Yelp soon...

Anyways, back to the risotto. A couple days ago, I made my own vegetable stock out of a bunch of vegetable shavings and leftovers. So excited that this dish is COMPLETELY from scratch. Makes it such a proud experience. It is a scallop risotto with red bell peppers, red onions, celery, and carrots. Apparently, the onion, peppers, celery, and carrots is the usual base mix of vegetables to start any dish. My roommate called it some fancy Italian or French word, but I forgot.

I based my risotto of the general procedure for "Our Favorite Risotto" from Cooking Light that was made with mushrooms and mascarpone cheese. Instead, I added my own vegetables, herbs, meat, and cheese. Below you will find the recipe. It came out very creamy and delicious, but must be served warm-hot to really enjoy it to its full extent. Before making the risotto, I made some banana muffins modified from a recipe my mom used. My mom baked for the first time last night!!! She made these banana muffins and added too many bananas and less butter, but it came out amazing. But she's back at home home and I'm in my college home, so I didn't get any. So I craved and made some myself - with my usual changes of course (cinnamon, spices, wheat). The recipe for the banana muffins follow the risotto recipe. (Picture to be added tomorrow).

(Pardon the messy pot. It's the starch and cheese.)

Scallop Risotto (serves 4-5)
1 medium-large red bell pepper, large diced
1/4 large red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 stalk celery, including leaves, diced
1/2 lb small-medium bay scallops, patted dry
Various herbs (I used dried oregano, basil, thyme, and parsley, freely added)
3/4-1 cup Arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
1 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1/4-1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Olive oil for sauteing
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Heat stock in saucepan to a simmer but do not boil. Keep warm.
2. Saute the red onions till limp. Add garlic and Arborio rice. Saute for 5 min. Add 1/2 cup white wine and cook, stirring, until absorbed.
3. Add 1 cup of stock and cook, stirring until most of it is absorbed. Meanwhile, begin to saute the carrot and celery (reserve the celery leaves). Add the red bell peppers and continue sauteing. Remove from heat once cooked. Add stock to rice 1/2 cup a time, stirring constantly, until absorbed each time.
4. Season the scallops with salt, black pepper, oregano, and basil. On a hot pan with olive oil, sear scallops till cooked through on each side. Kinda stir-fry it. Add in vegetables to reheat, then remove from heat.
5. Once rice is thick and starchy, and fold in scallop-vegetable mix. Add in rosemary, thyme, oregano, salt, and pepper, to taste. Add in Parmesan cheese, and fold through rice.
6. Spoon into bowls and top with chopped celery leaves. Enjoy!

Double Banana Muffins (14 normal muffins, or 12 muffins + 6 mini muffins)
4-5 ripe, medium bananas, mashed
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup sugar (mix white and brown)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 TBS canola oil
1 cup flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
Cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, to taste
1/4 cup chopped banana chips, toasted in oven

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare muffin tins with grease of liners.
2. Beat bananas, egg, sugar, vanilla, butter, and oil.
3. Mix dry ingredients. Add to wet ingredients. Fold in banana chips.
4. Pour into muffin tins. Bake for 20 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.

Note: Make sure to check on the mini ones just to make sure they don't cook too much before the big ones.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Winter Fun 3: Pumpkin Pie Bars

Nov 24, 2009

CVS of all places fulfilled my Autumn/Winter holiday dreams! On the sale rack after Halloween, they had a small pumpkin on sale for only $1.30 or something close to that. I immediately grabbed it. With my cute pumpkin in my arms, I went home and stored it until I was ready to make some legit pumpkin baked goods!

When the time came around, I found how hard it is to cute a pumpkin, cook it until mashing consistency, and puree - all without a real steamer and food processor. I chopped up the little thing with much exertion, scraped out the seeds inside, steamed it in a rice cooker, and tried to mash some of the pumpkin flesh in a small blender. This was way too much work with little result. The little blender could not blend anything that wasn't liquidy enough, So I had to semi mash it and eventually gave up and settled with semi-mashed pumpkin puree. The rest of the pumpkin, I lightly sauteed in olive oil and ate with spaghetti and spaghetti sauce. This I made for my housemates and friends as a Thanksgiving dinner.

I don't have the exact recipe with me now, but it's something close to this recipe. When I get the exact thing, I repost this later. What I did differently was halve the the pumpkin part of the recipe and baked the thing in an 8 by 8" pan. the crust was REALLY yummy. The pumpkin part was delicious too, and I actually lacked having some pieces of un-pureed pumpkin to chew on. It was pretty good, but I don't think I ever want to mash a pumpkin myself again. Thank you Libby's!

Winter Fun 2: Ganache Topped White Butter Cake

Nov 22, 2009: R's Birthday
I wanted to make a cake for my roommate's birthday, so chose the white butter cake from and made a dark chocolate ganache topping. It was so beautiful before I drizzled it with white icing! The icing was too liquidy over the also-liquidy ganache, and the two flowed into each other to make a funky mess. I could call this a Messy Zebra cake, but that would just be a sad attempt to cover up a mistake. Nevertheless, the cake came out very good: rich and sweet under the dark chocolate. The hardest thing was whipping up the egg whites. I don't have a beater or hand mixer in my Berkeley home, so I used chopsticks to try and whip it up. Man, my arms were so tired! Baking is a serious form of exercise, I'm telling you!

Cake Ingredients
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temp
3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs, separated
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
1/8 tsp cream of tartar (or fresh lime/lemon juice if you don't have it, like me all the time :P )

Cake Directions
See recipe

Dark Chocolate Ganache
Dove dark chocolate squares, chopped up
Whole fat milk

Ganache Directions
Add a small amount of milk to a small saucepan and heat on medium low, stirring constantly. Add dark chocolate and mix in until you have a thick consistency. Pour this over the cooled cake. I don't recommend putting icing on top unless you have a very thick ganache and a very thick icing. If you want icing, just mix powdered sugar and a small amount of milk until you get the desired consistency.

A Cornucopia of Winter Fun

Disney Downtown, New Years' Eve

Winter Break is a blessing in the middle of the school year. After a long semester of studying and work (along with bits of fun thrown in here and there for good measure), it's nice to come back home and not worry about the next onslaught of midterms and homework. Even better is the warmth of my hometown compared to Berkeley. Down south, it feels like a warm spring! I remember the chilly air on those sunny Berkeley days reading out 50 some degrees Fahrenheit. Despite it all, it was a refreshing walk through the city and campus, but once I got inside a warm classroom, nothing else could have felt better.

Now, back home, I watch the news and see the weathermen talking about subzero conditions elsewhere in the US (frozen lizards falling from trees, people dying from cold), and then compare it to our wonderful conditions here in SoCal. Wonderful 70-80 degree weather. My insulating-lacking body loves it! But, I just saw that there will be cooler weather coming in soon, along with some rain on Wednesday. It'll be a nice change, I suppose, and the dry SoCal terrain needs it.

In my long hiatus from blogging, I've done a lot of experimenting and taste-testing. As is the usual case with me, I felt too lazy to post; rather, I read other bloggers' posts and went on Facebook to pass the time. This morning, I decided it's finally time to post up my collection of Winter experiences. These will follow in subsequent postings after this one. Enjoy!

Nov 8, 2009: Asian Christmas Veggie Mix-Up

Ha, my attempt at an original name for something I made. This is something I quickly cooked up in Berkeley to replicate a dish my mom always makes. I didn't have the par-fried tofu we usually get from the Asian supermarket, only the silken tofu from the American stores. The problem with this tofu is that is crumbles at the slightest touch, which really changed what I was going for. Nevertheless, the dish came out still good and refreshing, as my mom's is. The other thing I was lacking at that moment was green onion and cilantro to garnish with. I served this with brown rice for a very healthy yet delicious lunch.

Garlic, minced
Frozen or fresh green beans
Plum tomatoes, sliced into thick wedges
1 pack firm tofu (if you want to do it like in the picture) or semi-fried firm tofu
Soy sauce
Olive oil

Saute the garlic in olive oil until yellowish-brown. Add the green beans next if using fresh, otherwise, add both the green beans and tomatoes. Saute for a bit longer until the juices of the tomatoes comes out and the vegetables are soft. Add in the tofu. Add in some soy sauce and sugar to taste, not too much sugar. Saute until tofu is cooked as well. Garnish with sliced green onion and cilantro.